Ryan Fitzpatrick entered the 2014 NFL Season as the starting quarterback for the Houston Texans under rookie head coach Bill O’Brien. A broken leg ended his season prematurely, but through 12 games and a 6-6 record at the helm, the veteran quarterback enjoyed the best statistical season of his 10-year career.
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After being dealt to the New York Jets this offseason, Fitz had some high praise for his former coach, saying he grew more as a player with one season under O’Brien than he had his previous nine NFL seasons.
"“I probably learned more about football last year than I had the rest of my career in a single season in terms of being able to see the game from a different angle.”"
He posted his career best quarterback rating of 95.3, his previous high was 83.3 in with Buffalo in 2012 as well as having his best completion percentage of 63.1%. The bearded wonder also had 17 touchdowns with only eight picks on the season.
Fitzpatrick’s claim that O’Brien can work wonders for the quarterback position is further cemented when looking at the only other team that he was a head coach for.
The Penn State Nittany Lions hired Bill O’Brien in 2012 to be their coach after their horrible scandal which led to the firing of former coach Joe Paterno. The former Patriots coordinator took on a huge challenge due to the negative publicity and harsh restrictions put on the program.
The head coach met the challenge and was successful, posting a record of 15-9 in two seasons. When he left the team for Houston, the program once again had a respected football team led by potential first round pick Christian Hackenberg.
The quarterback was a stand out in his first season in the NCAA when O’Brien was on the sidelines in 2013. The kid from Lehighton, Pennsylvania won the starting job as a true freshman that season and wound up with 2,955 yards while completing 58.9% of his pass attempts. For the year he also had 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
“I probably learned more about football last year than I had the rest of my career” – Fitzpatrick on O’Brien
Since O’Brien headed to Houston though, Hackenberg has struggled to get things going again. In 2014 he saw his completion percentage dip to 55.8% and he threw more interceptions, 15, than touchdowns, 12.
To start the 2015 season the junior quarterback struggled mightily in his first game, bringing up the question of whether or not his freshman year was an anomaly. A 27-10 loss at Temple saw Hackenberg go 11 of 25 passing for 103 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
The struggles of Hackenberg post O’Brien, coupled with the rise in performance of Fitzpatrick last season should give even the biggest critics of quarterback Brian Hoyer some hope as he enters his first game as the signal caller for the Houston Texans this Sunday.
Thus far in Hoyer’s career he has completed 56.5% of his passes and has 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He has been described as average and a “game manager.” The hope for many is that Hoyer will simply not make any mistakes and allow the defense to win games while he simply doesn’t cost the Texans any games.
Yet if Fitzy and Hackenberg are any indication of the way O’Brien can bring out the best in his team’s most important position, there could be a chance for Hoyer to be better than even his harshest critics (yes, I have been one of them) expect.
During his brief play in the preseason Hoyer looked efficient and sharp with his passes. He showed some good mobility and his confidence in himself and the system was clear to see. While I originally believed Ryan Mallett would win the starting job for Houston, it didn’t take long to see who was more in command during the battle between the two.
The Texans have enough talent on defense to compete with any team in the league. On offense they have playmakers all over the field and a good starting offensive line. If the “quarterback whisperer” can work his magic on Hoyer, this could be a very exciting season for the Texans.
If you want some hope that Hoyer will be able to rise to the challenge, just look at how much Christian Hackenberg is struggling since O’Brien packed his bags to run an NFL franchise.